Talking about print media in an era of almost complete digitalization is like swimming against the tide. But dreaming about it is another matter, and Kiyomi Tagawa has been dreaming for a very long time of publishing a magazine that will share Japan’s spirit, values and undiscovered beauty with the world.
After 25 years, during which he worked as a professional photographer, Tagawa’s dream is now taking shape. A year ago, he founded a company and gathered his staff, determined to publish a magazine that would remind Japan and the world about his country’s cultural roots, spirit and beauty – something he felt was vanishing in an era of excessive materialism and financial crisis.
The quarterly magazine, called SAMURAI.JP, will be published both in English and Japanese. It focuses on presenting Japanese culture and aesthetics through places, work and the lives of people who have sustained and shaped Japan’s arts, traditions and cultural prosperity, but who have remained somewhat hidden from the eyes of the mainstream media and pop culture.
The first edition, dedicated to the beauty and cultural importance of Saga prefecture, home to Japan’s ceramics and porcelain, includes interviews with Sakaida Kakiemon, Imaizumi Imaemon and Nakazato Taroemon, 14th generation ceramicists and kiln masters; an introduction to the beauty and history of Karatsu city; the truth behind the taste of Japanese sake; the history of Yoshisuke Ayukawa, Nissan’s founder, and a number of other articles and interviews, including a special feature on Tohoku beyond the destruction, representing a rather unique and not so well known Japan.
The magazine also has a "foreigners in Japan" section, the first issue spotlighting Alex Kerr, the author of "Dogs and Demons." The article is a retrospect of his 50 years in Japan, his work and thoughts about the present and future of Japan - his second home.
“Expressing our concept of 'tamashii' (soul) on paper was extremely difficult,” says Daisuke Saito, SAMURAI.JP’s acting editor. “We continuously spoke about soul and spirit, and I struggled with ideas on how to represent them. But when we began interviewing the people featured in the first edition, the pride they had for their work was so powerful that I came to realize that is what we were trying to do: express ‘soul’ through the words of people, who had devoted their lives on something in a traditional samurai spirit.”
However, is there a place for a new print magazine in the 21st century, some may wonder. Tagawa and his staff think so, despite acknowledging the risks. “There is this moment in the process of developing a magazine, the moment when you take out the just printed paper and see your work in your hands for the first time. That moment is comparable to nothing else,” says Saito.
“Soul and spirit can be expressed only in the real world,” explains Tagawa, a rather quiet and modest man. “There are risks, but they are worth it. The 21st century is a century of the heart and mind, not materialism. Maintaining one’s roots and values is the first step toward achieving emotional satisfaction.”
SAMURAI.JP’s first English issue goes on sale at the end of June in major bookstores in Japan and via Amazon. Price is 1,200 yen. 20% of sales of the first edition will be donated for reconstruction of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami-stricken regions in the Tohoku region.
For more information about the magazine, visit http://samurai.jp/blog/© Japan Today